I have been told that Sandra Hill is the queen of the Viking humor sub-genre. Even if I had been aware that there was such a sub-genre, My Fair Viking wouldn't have convinced me that this particular author was the queen of it.
The book begins with a young Saxon orphan and his sister being adopted by a Viking healer and her husband. The boy, Adam, later follows in his adoptive mother's footsteps. After a successful career that spans Britain and the Holy Land, Adam is unable to stop a plague that kills not only his parents but his cherished sister Adela as well. He decides to give up healing and has spent the last two years living as a monk, studying herbalism.
Tyra, a Viking warrior maiden is desperate to find someone to heal her father. She knows Adam by reputation and comes all the way to Britain to find him. Tyra describes herself as too big, too strong and too tall. Nothing like her pretty, delicate younger sisters, all of whom cannot wed until Tyra does. Tyra's plan is to disinherit herself once her father is well, thus paving the way for her sisters to be married. When Adam refuses to help her, Tyra kidnaps him and drags him forcibly to the Northlands.
This gender bending twist on the traditional romance novel kidnapping plot is amusing. At least for a little while, then it turns into a one trick pony. Tyra acts the Valkyrie, constantly reminding herself, and the reader, that she never wants to marry. She won't be attracted to Adam, no she won't. She doesn't need a man; she's NEVER going to marry. Enough already. That's the conflict in the book, Tyra is a big tomboy, boys are yukky and Adam is a boy.
Not that the reader can blame her when given a hero like Adam. He's handsome, and of course taller than Tyra despite that she's bigger than half her warriors. Unfortunately, his personality leaves much to be desired. Adam alternates between being really whiny, thus fulfilling the role of kidnapped heroine and being obnoxiously sexist. He propositions Tyra at least half a dozen times in the first few chapters alone. Then he finally extracts a deal with her, he will heal her father if she agrees to lay in bed with him naked for an entire night. There will be no touching, but Adam is so cocksure of his irresistibility I was tempted to slap him.
Adding to the irritation is the fact that these tenth century characters are spouting off anachronistic, not to mention bad, dialogue at every turn. The characters cuss like Cockney urchins, bloody this and barmy that. Not to be too nitpicky, but bloody is a contraction of "By our Lady" hardly a curse to be liberally used by a Norse mythology worshiping heroine. As if this isn't bad enough, Hill decides to toss in some twentieth century jargon like "ego".
The secondary characters are no better and are in place to provide what I can only assume was supposed to be comic relief. There are not one, not two, but four cloyingly adorable orphans that latch onto Adam, causing all manner of mischief. Tyra's sisters are one dimensional cookie cutters that each have their own little girly obsession because they can't get married and drive the household, well, barmy. For example, Ingrith likes cooking, so she cooks a lot and really fancy too. Those poor Viking dopes are going to get all fat and lazy if Ingrith doesn't get married. Then there is Drifa and her flowers. Flowers everywhere, on every surface inside and out. It's a disgrace to every manly, stinky warrior who lives there. It's all just so hilarious. Or not.
What ends up happening is My Fair Viking comes off like a really bad episode of Xena: Warrior Princess. Perhaps that was the intention, as Adam often calls our heroine Tyra, warrior princess - and their names are eerily similar. Still, what may work for campy TV comedy fails as a book. It could be that I just have a different sense of humor and readers more familiar with Hill's style will feel differently.